2019 Senior Prayer Day

Taylor Garman ‘20, Emma Elsbecker ‘20, and Angelina Abdeen ‘20 giggle while embracing the lighthearted nature of Senior Prayer Day. This picture was taken during Activity A with Ms. Cavnar as the girls did a warm up activity to become even more familiar with their peers. Photo Courtesy of Meghan Galbreath ‘20.

Taylor Garman ‘20, Emma Elsbecker ‘20, and Angelina Abdeen ‘20 giggle while embracing the lighthearted nature of Senior Prayer Day. This picture was taken during Activity A with Ms. Cavnar as the girls did a warm up activity to become even more familiar with their peers. Photo Courtesy of Meghan Galbreath ‘20.

Megan Onofrei, Photo Editor

Seniors at Xavier College Prep wait three years to receive the privileges of being the top-dogs of the school. One of those privileges is having two Senior Prayer Days at the Mount Claret Retreat Center in Phoenix, Arizona with all of your peers. These prayer days become known as the “last hoorah,” and are an opportunity for each class to come together spiritually and deepen their memorable bonds. These last prayer days are often heartfelt, passionate, and full of a lot of personal revelations as so many people get a chance to open up to a variety of different crowds. Each class forms the strongest bonds that they have had throughout the entirety of high school as they learn to appreciate the time that they have left at Xavier. Sister Kathleen, BVM, comments on the tradition and value that prayer days have on the Xavier community: “Prayer days are an opportunity for students to learn different styles of prayer, to share personal experiences that have a spiritual component and to deepen and expand one’s relationship with God. Senior prayer day focused on discernment, which is a spiritual practice that seniors can use as they make important life decisions. I’m grateful that our Eucharistic Ministers led the small groups. They did a wonderful job as peer ministers that day.”


The class of 2020’s first Senior Prayer Day occurred on Friday, September 6, 2019 at Mount Claret Retreat Center. The retreat began with all of the seniors arriving at Mount Claret at 8 o’clock in the morning where they were given an itinerary. An opening form of prayer was newly introduced to Xavier girls entitled the “Lectio Divina”. This particular form of prayer goes through four phases: Lectio/Read, Meditatio/Listen, Oratio/Reflect, and Contemplatio/Rest. The staff organizing the retreat divided the class alphabetically into small groups that were led by Eucharistic Ministers. This particular type of prayer reflected on a passage provided in the itinerary, Psalm 39, which explores God’s presence in each person’s life and his loyalty to all of his people as well as his ominous nature. Each individual was then asked to go through the four stages of prayer with this particular passage and discuss a particular word or phrase that resonated with them. Jocelyn O’Riley ‘20 talks about her experience with these meaningful reflections: “After reflecting on the words of the prayer, we gathered with our small groups and talked about how we could relate to the words. Then, we went further by discussing how we see God in our daily lives as well as in the big ways. Personally, I realized how relevant God’s presence is in my everyday life and how deep my relationship with him is.”


This exercise was followed by a projection of a TED talk by speaker Sarah Kay, entitled “If I Have a Daughter Someday…”. This fifteen-minute speech showcased Kay as an insightful woman who talked about the influential presence of poetry in her life from the time that she was a teenager to her current time as a teacher for the project V.O.I.C.E. She charmed the audience with two poems, the first one diving deeper into childhood reflections and the role poetry played throughout them. The second poem was a powerful analogy relating to the bombing of Hiroshima as she connected it to the challenges that life throws your way and how character is built around how one deals with adversity. She then asked the audience to reflect on factual things that they know to be true in their lives, such as their feelings or events that have happened, relating it back to asking them to recognize how such things can be controlled or not. Sophie Salome ‘20 reflects on what the TED talk meant to her on a personal level: “I learned that pain is a part of life and its normal to experience it. The best thing you can do for yourself is to accept pain so that you can also accept the blessings that come into your life. We become stronger, optimistic people ready to deal with whatever life throws at us. In the TED talk, Sarah talks how heartbreak happens and about having open arms and embracing the pain so you can embrace all the other good things in life as well.”


Following the TED talk, Dr. Kathleen Conway stood up and read a poem by Emily Dickinson, reflecting on how this poem relates to her life as a mother of three boys. She talked about the process she went through with her husband while naming their kids, trying to pick out the perfect name. Dr. Conway claimed that although names are difficult to decide, once your baby is born God sends you a message on who they are meant to be. She connects this to Emily Dickinson’s poem in which people are always hungry for something more, hungry for a deeper connection with God or in the case for most seniors, hungry for achievement through acceptance to a particular college. The poem also talks about looking through a window for what you are hungering for but once those windows are opened up, that hunger has been fulfilled. In regards to choosing her kids’ names, she relates this to finally fulfilling that hunger through naming her child, although the reality of that fulfillment is different from what was expected. 


Ms. Kim Cavnar, one of the directors for the Xavier Kairos Retreat, made a guest appearance. Her presence was very valued as she led a reflection focusing on the topic of discernment, how each individual comes to the conclusion of what they know to be true. She connected this to a passage by Iain Thomas discussing how the world and other members of our community are constantly telling us what we need to focus on. The power of discernment permits us to recognize what things are actually priorities in our own lives, connecting this to the choice to place God as a priority because he is the most important aspect of our lives. 


After a brief break, seniors then went through three rotations of activities that focused on analyzing spiritual literature and their personal feelings about it. Activity A, led by Ms. Cavnar, consisted of reading the poem, “To Rise”, as it was provided in the itinerary. Seniors were asked to reflect on what specific part of the reading stuck out to each. Additionally, they were asked to identify a personal trait that goes along with each initial of their name, diving deeper into contemplating their character. Activity B was led by Sister Kathleen as she read a letter that was narrated by Jesus where he reassured the reader of his loyalty and means of friendship. This letter touched the girls’ hearts as they were asked to write a return letter back to Jesus. Megan Onofrei ‘20 mentions her experience with this activity: “In my return letter, I thanked him for his unconditional love and loyalty through his teachings as he is and always will be the center of my life.” The last activity in this rotation was Activity C, led by Mrs. Hubbard, as she read the poem, “Poetry as Prayer”, also provided in the itinerary. Seniors brainstormed a list of words and phrases as well as created a mini poem that reflecting on the spiritual knowledge they had acquired from the retreat. Taylor Garman ‘20 spoke about the influence that this senior prayer day had on her: “I reflected on my friends and family. I also thought about how I need to focus on finding myself to be able to then focus on others.”


This sacred prayer day ended with a moving Holy Mass led by Father Cruz, greatly signifying God’s presence and love throughout the entire retreat. It was a beautiful service and the perfect ending to such a contemplative, reflective day where the seniors grew together as a class but most importantly, spiritually, in their relationships with God. Following the conclusion of Senior Prayer day, a pool party was held at Mason Mahoney’s house which has been a long-time Xavier tradition. Marissa DeLouise ‘20 talked about the overall joy and peace that she felt after Senior Prayer Day: “The combination of individual writing, personal reflection, and the entire senior class together at the beautiful Mount Claret Retreat Center allowed for a very relaxed, spiritual experience. Afterward, the senior class came together to enjoy a pool party where we bonded and made one of our first memories of senior year, and last of our Xavier career.” 


Pictured are Grae Fisher ‘20 and Marilyn Ghazoul ‘20 with friends in the background at the beginning of the retreat. These girls are intently listening to and absorbing the information from the reflections led by Dr. Conway and Ms. Cavnar. Photo Courtesy of Meghan Galbreath ‘20.
Sister Kathleen, BVM, talks with Father Cruz, Xavier’s chaplain, during the midst of Senior Prayer Day. Sister Kathleen blows her trumpet to acknowledge a change in the rotation of the activities in order to call all of the girls back to the central area, as the activities were spread out throughout the Mount Claret Retreat Center. Photo Courtesy of Meghan Galbreath ‘20.


Tara Froelich ‘20 sits with Elysia Fleetwood ‘20 who smiles for the camera during the very beginning of Senior Prayer Day. This was the time of the retreat where the Eucharistic Minister led the small group discussions of reflecting on Psalm 39 and the effect that particular passage had on each of the girls. Photo Courtesy of Meghan Galbreath ‘20.